For the month of April, Kindred Mom is covering the following topics: Postpartum Recovery, Encouragement for the New Mom, Autism Awareness Month, and Screen Time Conversations. We hope you’ll return to read the incredible essays we have to share with you and cheer on the courageous mamas who have shared them. Join us on the Kindred Mom Facebook Group to connect with our community.
I see you looking a little lost.
Your baby is new. She weighs less than a normal-size sack of flour, but when you aren’t occupied by the weight of her physical needs, the weight of her future and your responsibility to her sometimes threaten to overwhelm.
You’ve read books and Googled everything in a manic effort to feel like you know what you’re doing, which worked great until you figured out that each thing you read contradicts the last thing. Even when you’re not seeking information, well-intentioned friends, family, and strangers are bringing it straight to you. Sleep? Attachment parenting? Schedules? Vaccines? Breastfeeding? Solid foods? Work? Stay home? What’s with this crazy wrap and how do I tie my infant to myself with it? WHY IS THIS SO HARD???
Oh, friend. I hear you.
I’ve been there, a few years and a few kids ago. Some days, I’m still there, trying to Google myself into a sense of control.
I can’t tell you what to do about these issues or any of the others. I could tell you what I do, but one more unsolicited opinion just adds to the noise.
What I can tell you is how I stopped making myself crazy over it.
(photo credit: Sarah Lewis Photography)
Let’s back up about seven years. I was newly pregnant with my first, determined I would do this right. I decided I’d start by reading about birth options. I’d already blown through pregnancy books before I was expecting. (I know. This annoys me, too.) Once I learned what I needed in order to make a good decision there, I moved on to life with a baby. Everyone knows that newborns start out eating, sleeping, and pooping, but I had enough experience as a big sister and babysitter to be comfortable in the last department, so up next were newborn sleep habits and breastfeeding.
I got hung up on sleep.
Here I was, just getting out of the “tired and queasy” trimester, reading a bunch of books all across the spectrum from “let baby sleep with you and attend to every need before it arises” to “the baby needs to get used to the family schedule and this happens by putting them down when you want them to sleep and letting them cry until it’s time to get back up.”
The problem? Both ends (and every view along the middle) had some reasonable-sounding support, both biblically and scientifically. They all seemed to have fairly legitimate reasons why doing it the other way would cause irreparable damage to this grape-sized baby I carried.
I stressed about it for several months, then baby showed up and I had to make some choices. I chose one thing for a while, then it stopped working for us and we had to readjust. This was terrifying, because, remember, any other way was going to screw her up! I’d already researched and convinced myself plan A was the best- the only- option! We tried a few other plans. NONE of the options we picked ruined her. We eventually settled on something in the middle that worked for us and for her, then, with various modifications, three more. She’s currently playing sweetly with one of her sisters in the living room while the younger two sleep. It’s all fine.
Here’s what I learned both about the sleep debate and about parenting advice in general. I’d love for you to hold on to this as you try and navigate this new thing called motherhood:
Ideas are good. Some of them will work for you, for this kid, and some won’t. Maybe the first thing you try will work; maybe it’s going to take several more tries. It is okay. Go ahead and ditch the parts that tell you any other way will end in catastrophe. It’s gonna be fine.
Your people love you and (in general) want to help you by telling you about the things that worked for them, which probably morphed into “the right way.” Take the love and the useful advice and let the rest slide. Ask for help with dishes, diapers, sanity breaks. If they love you enough to chance telling you how to parent, they probably love you enough to fold your towels. (…but they won’t know your towels need folding unless they ask.)
Here’s the deal:
God picked you to be this little one’s mama.
He loves this baby more than you do, as hard as that is to fathom.
He is totally capable of guiding you to the method that’s going to work best for your family as you listen to Him.
That’s all. Seriously. It really is that simple. Mind, it isn’t easy—nothing worth doing comes without effort. (I’m not really good at it…Now I’m doing basically the same thing with schooling options and learning styles and discipline strategies as I did all those years ago with sleep. Whatever. I don’t have this figured. I’m preaching to myself here.)
So read. Learn. But even more than you inform yourself about the options on a given topic, invest in your relationship with the God who loves you and your baby plenty more than any of the experts do. Learn who your baby is. Figure out what you and your husband can live with.
It’s going to be okay.
Robin Chapman is a full-time imperfect Jesus lover, wife, and mama to four babies six and down. When she isn’t buried in children or hiding from them, she enjoys reading, photography, and sharing stories on her blog, where she’d love to connect with you! You can also find her on Facebook or Instagram… or perhaps hiding in her bathroom with some coffee.